FEMA preparing for Hurricane Earl
Updated 12:01 p.m. ET
With Hurricane Earl barreling up the East Coast this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying teams from the Carolinas to Maine in anticipation of storm surges, high winds and flooding.
“The primary threat is going to be storm surge” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told reporters during a Tuesday briefing.
"We bring out people in early, and make sure this is a support to the governors and their teams," Fugate said, adding later that "We’re not waiting for people to ask, we’re not waiting for the teams to go." FEMA response teams from the West Coast are deploying to New England to assist if necessary, he said.
As The Eye reported in a profile of Fugate last week, FEMA's ability to respond in advance of big storms is a direct result of congressional reforms enacted after Hurricane Katrina. Critics argued the agency took too long to respond, waiting for formal requests from the states instead of deploying resources it knew were needed.
For his part, Fugate (pronounced Few-Gate) will spend most of today at the agency's operations center in Washington, receiving updates from teams in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico that are assessing Earl's damage to the Caribbean, briefing top officials and coordinating with response teams along the East Coast.
He's also preparing for National Preparedness Month, which starts tomorrow as three tropical systems churn in the Atlantic. FEMA and the Weather Channel this week are rolling out a series of 30-second public service announcements reminding people to prepare in advance by having a disaster kit ready, developing a plan in advance and staying informed.
"It can be the difference between losing your possessions and losing your life," the Weather Channel's Jim Cantore says in the PSA (see below).
And what about Earl's potential impact on Labor Day plans?
"For a lot of areas it may be too early to say, but you can be a little more flexible if you pay attention," Fugate said. "Don’t cancel anything outright, it’ll be a conditional case-by-case situation, but chances are, unless you’re being directly impacted, you may have a good weekend."
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